On Thursday, I did as announced and took a long walk. I strode for 4 hours and took a 60 minute break for lunch. I ended up at Niiza, Saitama, 20.7 km from home.
My route was straight up national road 254. It’s called Kasuga Dori where I live, but past Ikebukuro it turns into Kawagoe Kaido. This route from Tokyo to Kawagoe has been travelled for hundreds of years. These days, it’s a four-lane highway all the way. Well designated, too. Even at the most complex intersections, I was never disoriented for more than the moment it took to find the right signpost.
I plodded through the familiar territory of my neighborhood, then into a section of the city I hadn’t seen before, though it was the same in tone and tenor as my neighborhood. After 45 minutes, I reached Ikebukuro, where I crossed over the Yamanote Line.
Outside the loop, the neighborhoods seemed more parochial than the skyscraping commercial zone I’d just left. Buildings were lower and businesses focussed on daily living. But soon enough the quaint shops in run down buildings gave way to suburban sprawl. Bicyclists outnumbered pedestrians. Ramen shops gave way to family restaurants. I watched bicycle shops turn into motorcycle shops and eventually car dealerships.
My goal was to reach Kawagoe, 34 km from home. But as I walked, my sense of time and distance got looser. By lunchtime, I’d reached Narimasu, 10 km from my starting point. I’d walked for about 2.5 hours according to my notes. I tried to do the math but it seemed wrong. After that much time, shouldn’t I be farther? I remeasured the map and came up with a different distance. I noted both then focussed my attention on eating.
Reaching the prefectural border just after lunch cheered me up. How many people in central Tokyo have walked to Saitama? Probably not too many. And there’s a reason for that. Over the border, Kawagoe Kaido turned industrial and extremely car-centric.
But this was intended as an endurance test, not a sightseeing trip. How far can I walk? What is the experience of going that far? I spent time thinking about how I should be thinking about the trip. I wondered back in time—50 years, 100 years, 400 years.
The reality was that four lanes of traffic accompanied me. A strong wind blew dust into my face. I walked for minutes with my head down and my eyes half shut. It was boring most of the time. There wasn’t much nature around. I stopped walking and came home because the blisters on my feet broke open. It hurt and I’m a wuss.
But I’m encouraged. I’ve made a target map of the places I can reach within a 10, 20 and 30 km radius of home. I’ll be going walking again as soon as my feet heal. I’ll buy a pedometer and maybe next time, I’ll try a more scenic route…
Posted by kuri at March 13, 2004 08:50 AM